No. 14 Rutgers to play 2 big road games over weekend
For 5 out of the last 6 years, the Rutgers field hockey team has finished the season with nine wins. The only anomaly in that stretch is during the 2015 season, where it won seven games.
This weekend, that anomaly can grow to two. The No. 14 Scarlet Knights (9-4, 1-4) will play two Big Ten road games in search of their first 10 win season since 2008. Their opportunities will come first against No. 15 Northwestern (8-6) on Friday, then next on Sunday against Indiana (4-9).
Coming away with two wins this weekend will be crucial for Rutgers, who only have four games remaining on the schedule. The Knights currently rank seventh out of nine Big Ten field hockey teams with a 1-4 conference record. The Wildcats rank fifth with a 3-2 conference record, while the Hoosiers rank eighth with a 1-4 record.
“We’ve got to stay focused on staying disciplined,” said head coach Meredith Civico. “We’ve got to play our hockey, play two touch and do that against a really good Northwestern team on Friday.”
Northwestern has beaten Indiana, Iowa and Michigan State this season for its three conference wins.
The Wildcats are led by Puck Pentenga, who has 9 goals and nine assists on the season.
“Each game remaining poses its own challenge,” Civico said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time, Northwestern is always a really tough matchup for us. It’s been neck and neck the past two seasons. I think we’ve got a bitter taste in our mouth from last year’s quarterfinal game, and we’re looking to come out and take care of business this year.”
Last year, Rutgers dropped two games to the Wildcats. First, the Knights suffered a 3-2 loss during the regular season on the road, and then again during the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. Rutgers lost 4-3 in that quarterfinal matchup and were eliminated from the tournament.
Winning all three of the remaining Big Ten games would put the Knights at a 4-4 conference record on the season, which might be good enough for them to secure a No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and host a quarterfinal game. Of course, it will all depend on how the other Big Ten teams finish their seasons in conference play, as well.
After the game on Friday, Rutgers will travel from Evanston, Ill. to Bloomington, Ind. to take on the Hoosiers, who only have one Big Ten win against the Spartans. Indiana beat Michigan State, 1-0, earlier this season, while the Knights also beat the Spartans by a score of 5-1.
With a good showing in the Big Ten Tournament, Rutgers will be on the verge of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Field Hockey Tournament.
“That’s been our objective since last year, since last spring,” Civico said. “This team really got together and that was one of their focus points. Our mentality then and now has always been to win one game at a time, and hopefully if we do that we’re going to be in a really good position come tournament time.”
For updates on the Rutgers field hockey team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.